Enrollment up at 9 California law schools

Law school enrollment dropped by 7.2 percent this year, but 33 law schools bucked the trend and increased overall enrollment. Nine of those law schools hail from California — more than any other state.

“We aren’t in an arctic vortex,” joked Edward Tom, Dean of Admissions at University of California, Berkeley School of Law when asked why California schools fared better this year.  “Honestly, I have no idea.”

While the nine schools saw improvement this year, they are still down 13 percent from 2010.

University of California, Berkeley School of Law, for example, had a student body of 915 in 2010, only to drop to 858 in 2013. It rebounded to 894 this year, a 4.2 percent increase.

“New admits consider return on investment or the amount they’ll pay for the bang at the end,” Tom said. “This plays a big role in their calculation. Combine that with the intangibles that Berkeley represents and we remain a very popular school. But all schools, no matter where they place in the pecking order are concerned about enrollment and maintaining standards. It’s no cake walk.”

In his nearly three decades of working in admissions, Tom has seen many fluctuations in application and enrollment numbers, making these last few years seem less shocking.

“Applications, though they’re down, they are still way above when I first started here some 28 years ago,” Tom said. “It’s sort of like we are getting back to normal. That’s my perspective, though I’m involved in this so deeply that sometimes I can’t see the forest for the trees.”

According to the American Bar Association, the number of first-year law students who enrolled in law school this year is the lowest it has been since 1973.

The University of La Verne College of Law had a student body of 426 in 2010. The southern California law school has struggled with enrollment since the ABA revoked its provisional accreditation due to low bar passage rates in 2011. It regained provisional accreditation within a year but is still making up for the loss. Enrollment increased by 3.47 percent this year; bringing the overall student body to 149 this year, up from 144 in 2013.

“The fact that we are recovering in a down market is quite significant,” said Dean Gilbert Holmes. “It’s small but the whole market is down. So for us to be making progress makes me have a lot of confidence.”

This fall the University of La Verne launched the True Tuition Model, dropping its full-time $39,000 tuition with the possibility of discounts or scholarships for a flat rate of $25,000.

“Having a flat rate makes law school more affordable for those who otherwise would not be able to earn a scholarship,” Holmes said.

While nine California law schools were up, nine were also down. Total enrollment in the state was down 5.1 percent this year, and is more than 18 percent off from 2010. Whittier Law School was down, but had a larger first year class in 2014 than in 2013.

California has proved to be one of the riskiest destinations for new lawyers as the number of graduates outnumbers the number of jobs.

According to the National Jurist’s analysis of the National Association of Law Placement’s Jobs & JDs Class of 2013 report and ABA employment data, California law schools graduated 5,064 students in 2013, outnumbering the 4,098 jobs taken in the state. Northern California ranked no. 16 among 20 regions with a 66 percent placement rate. It faired better than its southern counterpart, which placed last among the 20 regions, with only 58 percent of graduates from the region’s 14 schools landing jobs.


California law schools that increased enrollment this year:

Chapman University Fowler School of Law (21.37 percent)

University of California, Berkeley School of Law (4.2 percent)

University of La Verne College of Law (3.47 percent)

University of California Davis School of Law (2.81 percent)

UCLA School of Law (1.74 percent)

California Western School of Law (0.91 percent)

University of Southern California, Gould School of Law (0.66 percent)

Stanford University Law School (0.52 percent)

Pepperdine University School of Law (0.5 percent)


Law schools that increased enrollment by 5 percent or more this year:

Arizona Summit Law School (22.49 percent)

Chapman University Fowler School of Law (21.37 percent)

University of Idaho College of Law (9.29 percent)

Washington University School of Law (8.66 percent)

University of Hawaii at Manoa – William S. Richardson School of Law (6.2 percent)

Notre Dame Law School (5.58 percent).